October 6, 2015

Tech Talk Tuesday with Justin

Hey Guys!  I wanted to jump on here today while Mary is speaking this morning at the Pursuit Conference down in Rome, GA.  First of all, I just want her to know that she is so very loved and I’m so proud of her for being there and sharing her stories to help uplift and inspire the women of Pursuit!  So even if you’re not at the conference, be sure to hit up her instagram today and sent her some love!



Today, I wanted to answer a few techy questions that we’ve received recently over instagram and Facebook.

Q – Andrea York writes:  Justin – do you ever use AUTO AF-Area mode for the moving parts of the wedding? Processional, recessional, grand entrance, reception? I find that it’s not always focusing on my intended target. Also do you ever use the 3D AF-Area mode? (I’m using the d800).
A – Shooting weddings we almost always use a single point for AF.  This allows me to toggle my point to get exactly what I want in focus.  I will however toggle between AF-S and AF-C on our Nikon D4 (Canon calls it one shot v. AI servo).  My rule of thumb is that I shoot mostly AF-S to lock in my focus unless the distance from the subject to the camera is constantly changing.  The bridal processional is a good example of that.  If I were to shoot that in AF-S by the time the camera locked focus and fired the shutter, the bride would already be a half a step ahead of the focusing point.  AF-C becomes valuable for those scenarios.   I know a lot of sports photographers will use the 3D-AF area mode along with AF-C on the Nikon.  It’s designed to not only continuously focus, but also predict the movement when the subject is moving fast.  In my experience, even though the distance is changing as they walk down the isle, it’s usually a slow enough pace that the AF-C holds up with just the single point.  I also don’t shoot in continuous bursts (except for the first kiss and glass breaking ceremonies) so I can keep a close eye to be sure that af point is in the right place!
Q – Rene Tate Deniston writes: Yay! Justin, can we talk about your ever perfect white balance? How are you keeping it SO consistent? All your images from start to finish of a wedding day on the blog look like the same lighting. I know not everything is shot with Profoto gear – so how do you do it?
A – Hey Rene!  First of all thank you so much! White Balance is one of those things that while it is better to get it right in camera and save yourself time in post, can be corrected if you’re shooting RAW (which you should be for weddings!) without degrading the image quality.  So what does that mean in practice?  It means, get it as close as possible in camera but allow forgivness if you forget to change or settings in the heat of the moment.  With the pace of the wedding day, I would much rather be present and capture the moment, then be fiddling with my WB adjustment and miss the shot.  I use Auto white balance (AWB) when the light and color are changing like outside on a partly cloudy day.  I switch over to a Kelvin (K) white balance when the lighting stays consistent.  In a room that is all Tungsten bulbs, I’ll go to 3200K.  If I’m using my Profoto B1 or B2, I can set the wb to around 5500k.  If I have mixed light, for example, tungsten ambient light and flash, I will gel my flash to match the ambient.  By putting a CTO (color temperature orange) gel over my flash, I’ve effecivally created a tungsten flash.  Then I can set my camera’s WB to 3200K to correct for the entire scene.  
The final piece of the White Balance puzzle is to make correct RAW adjustments.  I use the color histograms in Lightroom to help me see what color casts are coming out in the skin tone region.  Then I can use the temperature and tint to correct for the cast.
I bet if you asked Mary, she would tell you that my answer would be to just shoot everything in Black & White :)


Our next question comes from Instagram user Leeannmarieg: What do you do with the one light setup in reception rooms that are like “black holes”?  It becomes really contrasty between the light and the dark.  Any tips?

If you are truly only using one light, its important to try and balance the amount of light with the ambient light in the room to manage the contrast.  First find your settings for the ambient light.  In a dark room, it may be something like 1/125sec f1.4 ISO 1600 or 3200.  Once you have your camera settings, then you can add the flash to match that exposure.  at F1.4 Iso 3200 you’re not going to need very much light at all (of course depending on how far you have to throw the light).  If it’s possible, this is where I would switch to a plan B two light setup.  My first attempt would be my main off camera light balanced with a slightly underexposed fill light on camera.  I prefer to bounce my fill light to keep the light soft and add dimension.  It’s very important to be conscious about what you’re bouncing the light off of.  If it’s a colored wall or a 40ft black ceiling the bounce fill is not going to work.  Plan C is to have a second off camera light working as a fill light.  I avoid this at weddings as much as possible because, having a second light is both distracting for guests and limiting on the angles in which you can shoot.  But sometimes you’re in those “black holes” that you mentioned and there is no other option.  Plan D… which we don’t even like to mention is to have an off camera main light and an on camera fill with direct light on the subject.  It’s not nearly as natural looking as the bounce fill or off camera fill, but it gets the job done in the worst of situations.

If you have any other questions feel free to leave them in the comments below and we’ll try and get to them on the next tech talk session!  Also, if you’re looking for more detailed information about Lighting, be sure to check out our e-book The Lighting Guide – Foundations Edition.

  1. Stephanie Stewart

    You rock, Justin! Thank you for doing this!

  2. sandra fazzino

    Thanks for identifying the Canon term, AI Servo!! I’ve had trouble explaining this to some of my non-Nikon 2nd shooters.

  3. Dilia

    These “Tech Talk Tuesday” topics could not have come at a better time! I literally had issues with this first two topics this past weekend when second shooting. So, I have been researching how to get better focus during the times where the bridal party and guests are moving around. I am so happy you covered this today! I set my camera to AI Servo the other day just to give it a try since I didn’t use it during the processional. Can’t wait to see the different results. And I’m learning to let go a little and start using the AWB to help me. Thanks Justin!!

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